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Lecture 2

Lecture 2 - Making Difference-What is Human - September 18.docx

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Saul Cohen

September 18, 2013. Lecture 2 – Making Difference: What is Human? Today’s Questions  Who gets to be human? o Historically Africans and women were not considered humans o Jews in Nazi Germany o Great Apes have human status in Spain, and same is for dolphins in India o Transgendered people, thought of as “it” o Disable people (mentally, physically, etc.)  Who has to prove it? o Many have to prove their humanity  How do they have to prove it and, if they are able, to who?  Who remains, after that, still less-than-human?  What are the consequences of failing to count as, or failing to prove yourself, human? Project Nim  2011  British  Directed by James Marsh  98% on Rotten Tomatoes  Been referred to as “great”, “powerful”, “breathtaking”, “It has a chimp in it!”  Oklahoma: 1973 – Institute for Primate Studies o Carolyn (chimp mother of Nim) comforting her baby, preemptive preparation for knowing Nim would be taken away; trying to protect Nim o Nim was clinging for dear life as well as screaming at the trauma of being taken away  Columbia University – Professor Herbert Terrace? o Requested Stephanie Lafarge take Nim to raise him as her child alongside her own human children to see if language would develop as a product of that environment o Intrigue into what a chimpanzee might be thinking and feeling o Chimps do not have the vocal chords of humans, cannot make human noises; communication through sign language was the goal o Stephanie breastfed him as a baby, everyone’s attitudes were focusing on treating him like a human baby; not prepared for inner wild animal o Nim and Stephanie’s husband didn’t like each other, Nim bit her husband at a sign of affection; wanted Stephanie all to himself o Taught sign language to Nim through repetition, observation, and association  Eat, me, Nim, hug, were among his first words o Constantly rebellious towards Weir, touching things or messing with things he knew that Weird liked a certain way  Saw Herb as next adult male challenge o Stephanie let Nim roam free, do what he wanted, didn’t discipline him especially in terms of his challenging the male figures surrounding him  “Hippie mentality”, pretty much raised her children and Nim like Elayne o Laura Pettito steps in, as babysitter, teacher and mediator; shocked at the chaos surrounding Nim and Stephanie’s household  Went for role of mother to Nim o Stephanie had a research interest in Oedipal Complexes, interested in Nim’s masturbatory habits o Laura and Stephanie conflicting a lot over parenting and teaching strategies; Herb set up a classroom for Laura and Nim  His knowledge of sign language grew exponentially o Stephanie lost grip on her role as mother  Heartbreaking experience of losing a pseudo child  Conflicted feelings about Nim learning language; felt he was less with language than he was without it  Delafield Estate: Riverdale o Owned by Columbia University, Herb was allowed to use the estate to raise Nim and house him and his teachers o Didn’t react negatively to being taken away from Stephanie’s household; was free and happy at the estate o Began potty training, used it; although unreliably o Bill Tynan was another teacher of Nim o Had a daily lesson plan for Nim, as well as visits to the University  Lesson plans included sign language as well as everyday activities o Allowed Nim to create his own signs as long as he used them consistently o As Nim grew he became more aggressive, attitude issues; would go into attack mode at small gestures/lack there of o Joyce Butler was another teacher of Nim  No previous experience with primates, no knowledge of them  Very dedicated and motivated though, fluent with sign language  Nim bit her once, she bit back immediately and made it clear he wasn’t to bite her and he never did again o Nim really liked the cat,
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